• Toyota falls down a hole shaped like a Ford Explorer ...

    Here’s the thing that’s struck me in all this. Just to qualify though: I own a 2005 Lexus RX330.

    But here are three things to think about first:

    1. Even though this problem is pervasive in many of the Toyota and even Lexus cars (not yet announced – but obvious), it’s still a problem for less than 0.025 percent of their entire fleet.

    2. The executives at Toyota don’t have a clue as to what the real problem is at all. If they did, they’re certainly not ready to tell us. That’s a fact. They haven’t been able to duplicate the problem in the same way the consumers have. Blaming it on the gas pedal is probably the last thing they should be doing, but they’re doing it.

    3. It’s not the gas pedal at all. Independent research, studies and the investigative / crash test data all say this. So far the only ones saying it is the gas pedal are Toyota executives. The real reason why they are saying it will come out much later. I have my ideas.* But pressure from their internal bean-counters will be the reason they’ll say it was the pedal. Blaming the accountants may work for awhile, but this is probably going to become a bigger problem for them.

    I stated in point two that they ‘don’t have a clue’, but in truth, I think they do. There have been grumblings about this since 2006. So it’s easy to speculate that not only have they known about this problem since then, they’ve also been working on the problem since then as well. However, from what I’ve read, they’ve been getting complaints since as far back as 1998, but I’m just being kind to them by saying that they may have started looking into it in 2006.

    Regardless of when it became known to them, the problem still stands. Also, again, like I said, I have my theories. Anytime I start telling my wife these theories on things she either rolls her eyes and groans and says "whatever, Steffan", or she listens. It just depends on the subject. But I’m often right, which is the mysterious thing. And I often go on record about it, too. Which is why I’ve posted this. You may read why I think the problem will be what it is and laugh. But later, in a few months, or even a few years when it does become clear … you’ll say … huh, interesting he was spot on. Well, that’s how it usually goes around here, anyway.

    So, I have to side with the independent analysts and say, no, it’s not the gas pedal. But if you feel any better about it, yank out your floor mats on the driver side.

    In 2007, I started noticing miniscule accelerations that were greater than the force being applied to the gas pedal. I even brought this up to my local dealership in Glendale, California and they looked into it. For the record, Glendale Lexus is by far the best Lexus Dealership in Southern California. I drive two hours from my home in Palm Desert (near Palm Springs) to service my car. The Horror stories about Desert Lexus is another matter altogether. A definite bad apple, but it doesn’t spoil the bunch and probably doesn’t represent the whole.

    From memory, I brought this issue up twice and twice I looked into it. I told my wife several times while I was driving that the car was doing this peculiar thing and she usually said something like:

    “No, Steffan. It’s not the car, it’s your driving. This is a Lexus. One of the best cars made – on the planet.”

    This is the usual attitude associated with reporting problems. The best thing I did was to look for a pattern. I noticed these increases when I accelerated and was going up a slight incline. I noticed more when I was driving on a flat surface across the desert, and had the cruise control on. I can give countless reports about the second, but they all sound the same:

    “The car was driving just fine at a set speed, not near a shift point, and it would begin to accelerate all on it’s on, speeding up greater than the set speed.”

    The other kind of report goes like this:

    “I left one afternoon to get gas and some quick shopping. When I came back to the house and entered my driveway, which is at a very slight incline, almost flat, I had to apply a small amount of gas. The car accelerated more than I had applied and I almost took out the front of my garage. I crushed the brake, put the car in neutral and then slammed on the parking brake – stopping mere inches from the front of the building. I immediately turned off the car and had to sit there for several moments while I recovered as my heart had almost flown out of my chest.”

    I told my wife this, and she just shook her head, rolled her eyes and said: “What’s wrong with you, Steffan?”

    Here’s the thing. For years, I had no problem just laughing along with her and never doubting the car at all. After all, it’s a Lexus and we’re very happy with the car we bought back in 2005. When the gas pedal story broke. She woke me up on Wednesday night when she came home, and said: “Hey, you were right about the car. There is something wrong with it. Did you see the news?”

    I was groggy and tried to figure out what she was saying. “What do you mean?” I responded, half asleep.

    “When you almost drove through the garage and took out the front of the house!”

    “That was back in 2007! Why are you waking me up?” I almost drifted back to sleep until I realized that she said: “I was right.” I rarely, if ever, hear those words from my wife. She’s a scientist. I’m a novelist.


    Here it is:

    I have a firm belief that the problem lies within the fuel delivery system, the on-board computer, the electrical system and the cruise control. I’m not going to get specific and name parts and break down operations within the car, that’s not my work-set, but rest assured it’s going to come down to this. Sooner or later, some combination of what I’m saying will be proven true. Also, it was stated in the Los Angeles times that a lot of the Vehicles that had problems were ones built in Japan. I don’t know how much truth there is in that, but that’s bound to create more psychological damage to Toyota than anything else if it happens to be true.

    Why do I feel so strongly about it? It’s simple. I’ve experienced it in my own car, several times. I’m not the only one, either. But why the obfuscation from Toyota? Bean counters. Like I said earlier, if Toyota knows what the cost is to fix it, based upon their own findings, and they do probably know what the cost is, they’re not ready to fold their hand and eat it. I can imagine that the cost per car is anywhere between two and three thousand dollars – in parts.

    What, you say? Parts? I thought you weren’t going to get specific, Steffan?

    No, I’m not, but the labour to do the job is where they’re going to get killed. Ripping out electrical systems, revamping the cruise-control and the onboard computer is hours and hours of work and requires a lot of disassembly and reassembly. The dealerships are the ones that have to bite the bullet on this, insurance (like all insurance) will only cover so much. ‘Toyota’ is not going to write some magic check for everyone, nor do they have a magic bullet, either. If you think they do, you’re fooling yourself. It’s called ‘loss’.

    Two thousand, three thousand dollars? You might as well double it after the labour is done. Hey, maybe even triple it! Good luck with that, Toyota.

    So, calculate all that against the ratio of cars that have reported a problem and understand if you were in charge and had to make a BILLION DOLLAR decision, what would you do? Now, keep in mind you’re making this decision long before any press hits the wires, before any statements from the company occur and before a police officer and his family lose their lives. Ford went down the same road, the exact same way, years ago with their gas tank issue. History – always – repeats itself.

    Here’s something else to think about though. I love my Lexus and I’m on the verge of buying a new one. I wouldn’t even think of buying something other than a Toyota or a Lexus, for more reasons than just the reputation of reliability. I’ll probably buy a Sequoia and I honestly would’ve already bought one had they not stopped selling vehicles. It is what it is.


    1. Since I made this post, the bulk of these statements have been proven to be true. The one's that haven't are not wrong, just haven't been proven true -- yet.